December 12, 2011 by
We hear a lot these days about the rising popularity of the local food movement. CSAs are becoming more visible and accessible, farmer’s markets are booming, and restaurants with seasonal menus dedicated to fresh, locally sourced ingredients are becoming the norm (well, more normal anyway). And yet when I look around my workplace lunchroom at 12:00, it is filled with a lot of hurried looking people scarfing down greasy take out or pulling pasty looking lunch combos out of fast food bags. When I ask some of my colleagues what they seek in a to-go mid-day meal, the answer is invariably “fast and cheap”. So are eating local and eating fast and cheap incompatible states? Not on Fridays in the Waterloo region, thanks to some excellent lunch time efforts popping up around town!
Over the next few weeks I’ll blog about some of the great places you can enjoy a locavore lunch on the fly and on the cheap. Today’s feature is on the KW Culinary Studio, on Belmont St. in Kitchener.
Red Seal Chefs Kirstie Herbstreit and Jody O’Malley run the Culinary Studio out of a beautifully renovated space that used to be the old Vincenzo’s on Belmont St. The studio offers a wide range of cooking classes, full take-home suppers for 4 people, and some catering services. They have one overriding philosophy for everything they do there – “make great food kept simple, by using the best quality local ingredients and time-honoured cooking techniques.”
About a month or two ago, they started a Friday lunch take-out special - $10.00 cash and carry, from 11:30 am until they run out. For your hard earned $10.00 (the price of an average supersize combo at AnyGivenFastFoodConglomorate) you get a locally sourced, home-cooked lunch course, homemade dessert, and a cup of tea brewed and provided by All Things Tea, who are just up the road.
I popped in for the first time last Friday and was greeted by friendly faces (including the owner’s moms!) bustling around the small space, hand-wrapping lunches that were freshly assembled just minutes before. The menu that day featured a hot apple and celeriac soup, a slow roasted turkey sandwich and a praline square, which was an unbelievably good slice of shortbread topped with a butter tart and praline coating. The tea of the day was a creamy Earl Grey. Lunch was tucked away in a brown shopping bag for me, tea was poured into my travel mug, and within 5 minutes I was back in my car and on my way back to the office, my car quickly filling with the drool inducing aromas of the soup and the turkey.
Everything tasted exactly as I hoped it would – comforting, home cooked, fresh, flavourful. The soup was a creamy puree that made the best of two excellent seasonal local ingredients– Honeycrisp apples from Martin’s (which are hands down one of the best apples I have ever tasted, and which I ate religiously all summer and am currently hoarding a stash of in my garage) and celeriac or celery root.
The moist, smokey turkey, from Stemmler’s meats, was roasted on site and the farmer’s style bread baked by Jody was that just-right combo of chewy and crusty. Add some fresh mixed greens and it was perfect – like the sandwich you make yourself the day after Thanksgiving, but better.
The dessert is a great touch, because even though I was too full to eat it with lunch, I remembered it around 2pm and had it with an afternoon cup of coffee – so much better than the vending machine!
The menu line up includes:
- homemade cabbage rolls on December 16th
- an Arancini sandwich (cheesy risotto balls on a toasty bun with San Marzano tomato sauce) on December 23rd
I noticed people in the lunchroom eyeing me – or possibly my lunch – with envy as they ate their generic take out. Go on, I thought, get your own. No, seriously, go do it. It’s really good. You won’t be sorry.
You can check the KW Culinary Studio out here: http://theculinarystudio.ca/
Next feature will be on the increasingly popular brown-bag-Fridays from Nick and Nat’s Uptown 21 – their sandwiches will change your life.
Michelle Sullivan lives in Kitchener and is passionate about all things food related and about sustainable, healthy living.